Transitioning Out of Care: Life of a Foster Care Youth
Homelessness is like a plague. Just like a plague, it affects anyone, no matter your age, gender, or race. Homelessness may even hit you when you’re least expecting. People may find themselves homeless after losing their job, managing their finances poorly, or losing their home to a natural disaster. Others may be unaware of the resources that the government provides for those living under the poverty line. Youth that age out of the foster care system may also find themselves homeless due to having a lack of support. Despite the many circumstances that adults and children may find themselves in, one fact remains: children who age out and transition out of foster care are at risk of becoming homeless.
Many children go through foster care and age out of the system when they are 18. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012), approximately 43,000 youth, age 17 and up, exited foster care in 2011 (p. 3). When youth age out of the foster care system, they are at a high risk of becoming homeless due to little to no social and emotional support and lack of knowledge about services and resources. The National Alliance to End Homelessness discusses in their report how youth are at risk for becoming homeless and states that “The odds for a person in the general U.S. population of experiencing homelessness in the course of a year are 1 in 194,” but “For a young adult who has aged out of foster care they are 1 in 11” (p. 7). When youth do not receive the resources and aren’t well prepared for adulthood, they become part of the statistic that ends up homeless.
In foster care, youth will at times have a family friend or relative that is still involved in their life as they transition out of care. They may possibly have this one relative or friend that can be their source of help for food, advice, transportation or whatever they may need. But what if they do not have that support system? How can we help these youth?
At the age of 16 years old, kids in care will go through the PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) Training that involves a six week life skills training, covering Health and Safety, Housing and Transportation, Job Readiness, Financial Management, Life Decisions/Responsibility and Personal/Social Relationships. After the teens complete this class, they can focus on getting their Driver’s License and finding a job. After graduation, the Lubbock MAC (Making a Change) Center with the BCFS organization will involve the girls in the Hope Chest Celebration. The Hope Chest provides the local graduates with a shopping trip to Target to pick out essentials for their dorm or new apartment. Each teen gets a new start with a great meal and celebration to show our excitement for their accomplishment.
How can you help? The Celebration will need donations for food, dinner ware, money, and volunteers. Donate at BCFS HopeChest.
“When I graduated from High School, I had a graduation party that my family and my church family put on for me. I received gifts, gift cards, cards with encouraging notes and plenty of tips and advice! I left for college with my mother and father by my side, helping me unload my stuff and showing me around town. I remember my mom and dad dropping me off and putting on a brave face, crying only after they had left. I remember the fear I had of being alone. I wasn’t really alone, I was a phone call away from my family, if I needed them, they would come any time, day or night.”
– Jesalyn Becker
We were blessed by our parents and support system to receive knowledge on how to be successful. Now, we have the opportunity to bless kids in care by teaching about resources that can prevent homelessness and provide guidance on how to become successful.
One way to help our kids at the Children’s Home of Lubbock is to become a sponsor. Becoming a sponsor is a way to show kids in care a healthy family and how to teach life lessons. Life lessons include tasks, such as filling up a gas tank, when to change your oil, how to fill out your taxes, and how to do your laundry at a laundry mat. These are simple, yet, important lessons that you learned while growing up or maybe even while in college. Sponsors can be that source of support and encourage the youth to attend their church and even build relationships at church.